A FINANCIAL TIMES, ECONOMIST AND NEW STATESMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020
'The most important non-fiction book of the year' David Hare
In the years just before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, people from across the political spectrum in Europe and America celebrated a great achievement, felt a common purpose and, very often, forged personal friendships. Yet over the following decades the euphoria evaporated, the common purpose and centre ground gradually disappeared, extremism rose once more and eventually - as this book compellingly relates - the relationships soured too.
Anne Applebaum traces this history in an unfamiliar way, looking at the trajectories of individuals caught up in the public events of the last three decades. When politics becomes polarized, which side do you back? If you are a journalist, an intellectual, a civic leader, how do you deal with the re-emergence of authoritarian or nationalist ideas in your country? When your leaders appropriate history, or pedal conspiracies, or eviscerate the media and the judiciary, do you go along with it?
Twilight of Democracy is an essay that combines the personal and the political in an original way and brings a fresh understanding to the dynamics of public life in Europe and America, both now and in the recent past.
Applebaum's reflections on the anti-democratic pandemic sweeping our world offer an extraordinary mix of personal witness and dispassionate historical analysis.... It's unlikely that anyone will ever give us more sensitive or revealing insights on this question -- John Connelly ― New Statesman
Heretics make the best writers. ... Applebaum can bring a candle into the darkness of the populist right ... her writing is an arsenal that stores the sharpest weapons to hand. -- Nick Cohen ― Observer
Applebaum's progress ...has yielded an enviable supply of raw material for her narrative. She mines her sources doggedly....Twilight of Democracy is a rather penetrating work of ethnography -- Trevor Phillips ― The Times
Advancing her arguments with eloquence and personal testimony, Applebaum passionately decries the corrosion of liberal, open-society values in the last three decades. -- Chris Patten ― Project Syndicate
written with deep insight, experience and wisdom. Definitely a very important book for understanding our troubled times and the fragility of our democracies -- Elif Shafak ― Daily Mail
Anne Applebaum's Twilight of Democracy is the most important non-fiction book of the year because it asks the most urgent question: why is the right wing in the West moving so far to the right? Why is it, at this point in history, so drawn to authoritarianism? Why has it given up on democracy?' -- David Hare ― New Statesman Books of the Year
this engrossing account ... is a political book; it is also intensely personal, and the more powerful for it. -- John Kampfner ― Guardian
Applebaum, long an authority on the abuses of Communist and post-Communist Eastern Europe, in her new book Twilight of Democracy is unsparing in exposing the moral bankruptcy of Trumpian Republicanism. Her sharp pen is as persuasive as any in presenting the idea of the "west" as a morally serious project-and one whose loss we may come to mourn. -- The world’s top 50 thinkers 2020 ― Prospect
A brilliant writer who sheds light on the most disturbing political phenomenon of our era: the rise of rightwing authoritarianism around the world... a cry of alarm and a call to arms.... We have been warned. -- Martin Wolf ― Financial Times
readable, eloquent and passionate ... Applebaum knows what the enemy looks like from the inside, and how it thinks. This book may only be a start. We should cherish her. I think she has a lot more she can tell us. -- Francis Beckett ― The New European
This richly informed book enlarges her account of the enormous peril in which the democracy we took so casually for granted now stands. -- Philip Pullman ― New Statesman Books of the Year
From Brexit Britain and Donald Trump's America to the cynical politics of Poland and Hungary, she feels beset by a new chauvinist right that has no regard for rules, truth or institutions. Ms Applebaum evokes an acute sense of betrayal as people she trusted turn against her, quicker than she thought possible. Her personal story is a parable of what can happen to alliances in the absence of a common adversary, and when the hardships such enemies inflicted fade from memory. ― Economist
This is an illuminating political memoir about the break-up of the political tribe that won the Cold War. -- David Goodhart ― Literary Review
Equal parts memoir, reportage, and history, this sobering account of the roots and forms of today's authoritarianism, by one of its most accomplished observers, is meant as a warning to everyone. ... critically important for its muscular, oppositionist attack on the new right from within conservative ranks-and for the well-documented warning it embodies. The author's views are especially welcome because she is a deliberate thinker and astute observer rather than just the latest pundit or politico. In the spirit of Julien Benda, Hannah Arendt, and Theodor Adorno, Applebaum seeks to understand what makes the new right "more Bolshevik than Burkean."... A knowledgeable, rational, necessarily dark take on dark realities. ― Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Anne Applebaum is the author of Gulag: A History, which won the Pulitzer Prize, of Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, which won the Cundill Prize and Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine which won the Lionel Gelber and Duff Cooper prizes. She is a columnist for The Atlantic and a senior fellow of the Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. She divides her time between Britain, Poland and the USA.